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Building Bridges with Business and Industry
by Dr. Barbara Prindiville

Posted on 2/21/07

Business retention and expansion is a key driver to a region’s economic vitality. Closely tied to business retention and expansion is the ability to attract and retain a talented workforce. Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) prides itself in building bridges with business and industry to meet current and future workforce needs.

Identifying and Training New Workers

Area employers turn to WCTC to provide a pipeline of new workers who possess the up-to-date technical knowledge and the critical life skills to make an immediate impact in an organization. Each year, over 20,000 job requests are posted by area employers seeking WCTC graduates.

Ensuring there is an adequate supply of new workers is increasingly critical as the skilled workforce continues to age. WCTC works closely with local K-12 districts, employers, community-based organizations, and four-year colleges/universities to promote career and education ladders. By working together, WCTC and its partners are able to expose young people to the diverse career options within an industry cluster and give them a foundation for future education and advancement within the field.

In addition to over 120 degree/diploma and certificate offerings, WCTC also helps adults achieve the literacy level needed to pursue employment or post-secondary education. The college serves between 600-800 English-as-a-Second Language students each year and graduates over 400 individuals from high school completion programs annually.

To make certain that WCTC is offering the programs and services needed in the community, the college is constantly tapping into feedback from a wide range of sources including the Board of Trustees, its 800 academic program advisory committee members, the WCTC Foundation Board comprised of business and community leaders, the Waukesha County Economic Development Corporation and employer feedback received through its Corporate and Community Training department. Encouraging open dialogue with these stakeholders is critical to ensure that classes and programs offered by the college match the fast-growth, high-wage emerging sectors that will continue to drive growth in our region.

Increasing Skill Levels of Current Workers

Equally as important as identifying and training a pool of new workers is rapidly responding to the training needs of incumbent workers to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge base that encourages innovation and productivity. WCTC assists hundreds of employers each year by evaluating their workforce development needs, providing technical assistance and delivering customized training solutions. Six Sigma, ISO certification preparation, Lean enterprise and customer service are a few of the areas most requested by employers.

Customized training allows employers to expand the talent base of their existing workforce to increase efficiencies and enhance their ability to be globally competitive. Rather than “one-size-fits-all” classes, the customized training offered through WCTC’s Corporate and Community Training department incorporates live projects relevant to the specific employer with an end goal of improving business processes and the bottom line.

Employers are often eager to provide training for their workers, but the cost may be prohibitive. WCTC works with area employers to help them gain access to Workforce Advancement Training dollars, through Gov. Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin Initiative, and other grants that may be available to help companies reinvest their workforce. Bruno Independent Living Aids in Oconomowoc, a company who has benefited from the Workforce Advancement Training Grant, cites that they have been able to reduce inventory by millions of dollars through the practice of Lean methods learned through WCTC customized training.

Helping Companies Grow Globally

Like many companies, Cooper Power Systems and GE Healthcare rely on export sales to fuel sales growth. Where do they turn for exporting expertise? WCTC’s Global Education and Trade Center. The center hosts Global Business Expansion Institute (GBEI) Roundtable Discussions on topics such as NAFTA Certificate and Rules of Origin, Global Sourcing and Export Documentation and Payment Methods. It is also home to the state’s largest international trade technical resource library featuring topics such as cultural and business protocol, international sales negotiations, importing and exporting reference guides and marketing and distribution issues; and WCTC staff can provide customized global research for companies in need of specific information to make informed decisions on export strategies. Businesses contemplating exporting can also take part in an “Organizing for Export” series at their worksite where a WCTC global trade expert will help them assess their export readiness, develop an export team and establish overseas markets.

By continually building upon our relationships with area employers, WCTC will remain well positioned to find innovative ways to anticipate and rapidly respond to the workforce development needs of our region.

Barbara Prindiville, Ph.D., is the President Waukesha County Technical College

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